[Horror Game Review] Deep Sleep: Nocturnal Encounters with Pixelated Shadow People

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Deep Sleep isn’t the usual fare for someone like me. It’s not in VR, not even 3D, but a point and click adventure game similar in mechanics to the old Lucasarts classics. Gameplay consists of clicking on objects or other cues in each scene to progress.

If you’re thinking that can’t possibly be scary, remember that in horror more than anywhere else, less is more. Some of the scariest indie horror titles out there look like something the NES puked up. Lower visual fidelity not only invites your imagination to fill in the gaps, but also lowers your expectations going in.

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The game’s plot revolves around lucid dreaming, and urban legends about ‘shadow people’. Thought to be a hallucination the half-awake brain conjures up to explain away sleep paralysis, the shadow people in this game are very real denizens of a dark, abstract dream world you will explore.

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For the most part their appearances coincide with timed challenges. These sections are extremely tense, like fitting a crank to a gearbox so you can close a sliding door before the apparition reaches you. This really helps force you to take the game seriously despite the big, chunky pixels and somewhat cartoonish style.

The game begins when you first discover that you’re dreaming. The environment then dissolves away, revealing the world of dreams. Very fascinating intro for a game. You find notes written by your waking self to your sleeping self which relate some of the plot, but the rest is pieced together from scraps of a torn up page you must find hidden throughout the game environments.

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Puzzles are standard horror fare. Find flashlight. Find batteries. Find crowbar, or wrench, or key. You have an inventory at the top of the screen, and will occasionally need to combine two or more items to proceed. That was a welcome added degree of complexity over what I’m used to.

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In fact the cleverness of the puzzle designs in general are a high point of this game. They really make it something special. The atmosphere is also great, but without satisfying core gameplay mechanics it wouldn’t be much to write home about. Luckily, everything’s here, and impressively well done for a flash game of all things.

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I was fascinated by the lore, engaged by the gameplay and by the end, was clamoring for more of it. Despite the poor visuals, this is one of the best horror games I’ve ever played. Better yet, it has two sequels, which I will review in the coming days. I give Deep Sleep a 9/10 and highly recommend you play it.

All images courtesy of ScriptWelder

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